F is for Feathers, Flap, Fledge, FLY!

F is for Feathers, Flap, Fledge, FLY!

Mary, our Digital Marketing Officer, looks back at the past several days during which the Foulshaw Osprey chicks started to fledge.

Gosh! What a thrill to witness the first ever moment a young osprey takes to the air, hey? 

You’ll know if you’ve been watching #FoulshawOsprey cam, that the three youngsters have been flapping & stretching their wings over the past week or so ready for that all important take-off. Their wingspan in adulthood will be around 1.5 metres (that’s about 5 feet), making them one of the largest birds of prey in the UK. 

And so far two of the three chicks have fledged. Yipee!

blue 462 female osprey fledging in the foreground and blue 463 in background

Blue 462 female preparing to take flight for the first time

Blue 464 osprey fledges on 9 July in the afternoon

The first of the three chicks to fledge was male Blue 464. Thanks to our cam viewers for telling us they witnessed his maiden flight at 2:53pm Friday 9 July 2021. 

Blue 462 female osprey fledging Monday 12 July 2021 just before noon

Here's the moment female Blue 462 took off. She was reported as fledging at 11:57am Monday 12 July 2021 by many of our cam viewers. 

I love the way the ospreys preen their fresh feathers before they fledge. They do it so meticulously like they’re picking off flecks of dust from a ball gown or tuxedo that’s been hanging in the wardrobe for too long. Their wings are now developed enough for flight. And it’s so, so exciting knowing that their time to fly is written in their next chapter.

I’ve felt a sense of excitement and anticipation as I’m sure you’ll have. Because it’s a huge moment for our little ospreys. Especially the littlest one, Blue 463. Poor thing…

What a struggle this bird has gone through, huh? It was almost like watching an osprey version of Cinderella, where the two jealous step-sisters mistreated their sister. Happily in this story, all three are off to the ball… together. Brilliant!

blue 462 female osprey fledging in 2021

Blue 462 female osprey ready to go!

I find the time a young osprey fledges very special not least because it’s a time when their parents may feel a sense that their efforts in rearing their brood is paying off.

And of course the devoted pair get a well-deserved break perched in the roost tree, albeit always on standby at the hint of any potential threat to their family stability. Any sign of potential danger, and they’re up in the air heading to the nest to protect it or chase off an intruder. An unknown osprey was swiftly dealt with on the wing by their mother a few days ago.

The fledglings’ parents incubate their eggs for over a month. I’m always awestruck by how they sit on their eggs through hail, sleet, rain and under no shelter from hot weather whatsoever. I guess they don’t have any other option!!

White YW male osprey perched on Foulshaw Moss roost tree © Ian Alexander Waite

White YW, the breeding male osprey at Foulshaw Moss perched on his roost tree © Ian Alexander Waite

Blue 35 female osprey incubating egg on the nest - view from Foulshaw Ospreys night web cam

Blue 35, the breeding female at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve, incubating her first egg of 2021 in April - the night vision cam is brilliant isn't it!

Female Blue 35 fiercely protects her family and together with her loyal mate White YW, makes a strong power couple in the osprey world. They’re a great example of why ospreys tend to mate for life. These two ospreys have fledged 20 chicks together over the past 8 years. And counting….

Little Blue 463 is flapping his or her wings as I write.  I can't wait for the day this little fighter will be soaring over Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve and beyond.

Our osprey webcam footage is recorded of course and so I’ll download little Blue 463’s big moment for those of you who may miss it, me included! I really appreciate the time our osprey cam viewers take to share their observations and screen shots with us and fellow viewers. It helps enormously with going back over footage.

It’s almost two months after hatching that an osprey is ready to fledge. It’s astonishing how rapidly the ospreys grow in 8 weeks right? Feathers are almost sprouting before our very eyes! Astounding.

That's because there’s no time to dawdle for these birds as the osprey’s season in Cumbria’s remaining wild places is pretty short.  Instinctually they are urged to move on south to Portugal or West Africa, knowing the days are warmer, longer and food more plentiful.

Sunrise at Foulshaw Osprey nest web cam - Blue 35 female nurtures her chicks

Blue 35 watches the sunrise whilst nurturing her chicks

Watching the intimate lives of these stunning birds of prey, and being part of their journey is a privilege and can feel quite an emotional rollercoaster. To me, the osprey at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve are what the lions are to the savanna, what the polar bears are to the ice bergs. And what the dolphins are to the sea. Interwoven wilds, part of our Wilder Future.

Go fledglings, go FLY!

Thank you to all those who share their observations and to those who help fund the cam. Happy watching!  ~ thanks from myself, Mary, and the rest of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust team.